Tuesday, 17 February 2009
The big truck ride
In the early morning we've crossed the border to Kenya to check the possibilities for a ride to Nairobi. Two options where available: Ghetto minibus and a truck. As locals have told us that the bus leaves when its full we decided to take a truck. Also two trucks have been available: a truck with a load of 20t beans or a cow transport. Our decision was almost spontaneously the bean truck. None of us have ever been on a public African truck transport so we've decided to pay 2000 Kenyan Shillings for the cabin. Including our Ethiopian friend we took all four seats inside the truck. For me it was much more an adventure to take a seat on top of the truck with the other low budget travelers. It was great! A perfect view, sun, fresh air and a friendly truck driver assistant.
The first section on the road a Kenyan soldier with a machine gun was with me on top to protect the truck against bandits. I felt very comfortable with soldier Mike. For sure he just was there for decoration. Our driver hat problems with beggars and the local police but he didn't do anything to help him out. After soldier Mike left the truck at a big checkpoint the truck suddenly stopped and we picked up four illegal Ethiopians. Kenya and Ethiopia have an free travel agreement between the two states. Because of the huge corruption of Kenya, Ethiopians have to pay to the border police a few hundred dollars to receive the free entry stamp. After a while the truck left the paved road and took a dessert route near the Somali border. This area is known as one of the unsafest places in Kenya. Bandits, crazy villagers (as co-driver Tuju calls them) and bumpy dessert roads. After an hour in the dessert we had a flat tire. It took four hours and a lot of effort to get the flat tire off, repair the spare tube and put all together. Luckily a few other trucks also stopped by and helped us out. Driver Sam was also very nice to us. He shared his food (Somali pancakes with dried meat, beans and sliced pineapples) and drinks with us. The rest of the day was a real pleasure. Many animals around (Ostriches, Birds, Camels, warthogs...) and constantly changing environment (trees, bushes, sand, stones, rocks, dust...).
At the evening we all have been in the truck cabin and after a stop Edith and Walter decided to sleep on top of the bean sacks on the truck. I've decided to stay in the cabin with Dereje and the driver. Suddenly the driver stopped and told me he wanted to see me drive. Obviously Tuju, the drivers assistant, has told him that I can drive a truck. I told him that earlier on top of the truck cruising through the dessert. It turned out that it was quite difficult to drive the truck. Not only because of the dessert tracks but also because of the defect steering. I had to use all my strength to make a big turn. The truck was also very heave with almost 30t, 10 passengers and 4 illegal Ethiopians. After some time I've got comfortable with steering and I drove the truck over five hours to the final overnight stop.
After sleeping on the ground on an old mat the journey continued until the early afternoon. Edith and Walter joined me at the top and we had a lot of fun. We also have seen some giraffes and monkeys that day. Due to the high security in Kenya the truck had to stop every hour at a control point and the Ethiopians had to hide because the police searched the truck. We left the truck in Garissa and continued by bus to Nairobi.
After two days we have set up the next plans for the week. Tomorrow we leave to our first safari in south Kenya. It lasts for three days and we're back on Friday. We'll get dropped at the bus station to Uganda to stay there over the weekend. Walter wanted to visit Uganda and as a teaser he told me its a good place for white water sports. After a brief research we intend to go on a grade 5 rafting (there are 6 grades). I expect that to be quite rough but a lot of fun if we survive ;)
Next week we'll be back in Nairobi and then probably split up to the beach and the mountains. Edith and Walter will enjoy some nice days at the beach in Mombasa and Sansibar and I will check out the mountain.